Our Story

Our history:

During a conversation with Bob Schieffer at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2012, General Stanley McChrystal—the Chairman of our Leadership Council—commented that for the first time in our history, less than one percent of Americans are serving in our nation’s military. He noted that citizenship in our country has atrophied and we suffer from a general lack of connectedness, and considered large-scale national service a possible solution. 

"The payoff is not what they do. It’s not whether they go build roads and parks… it’s what you put inside of them. Because once you have contributed to something, you have a slightly different view of it.”

General McChrystal’s comments struck a nerve with the American public, fatigued by the deterioration of many of the institutions and opportunities that used to help buttress citizenship. Joining a cadre of committed people and organizations that have worked to make service and citizenship a national conversation for years, General McChrystal led the creation of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute in 2013. He is now the Chair of the Franklin Project Leadership Council. Supported by military veterans who consider civilian and military service two sides of the same coin, a bipartisan leadership team committed to this big idea, and nonprofit and community leaders who have seen first-hand the impact civilian service has on communities, the Franklin Project was born. For our team, national service is in part about supporting good causes – but it’s very much about helping develop the next generations of Americans.

We envision a world in which every American is asked, “Where did you serve?” and can answer with pride.


Want to learn about our work?

  • Read this piece by General McChrystal on Securing the American Character. (Shorter version here.)
  • Watch our director, Jason Mangone, speak to Bloomberg TV about the Franklin Project.
  • Learn why former Secretaries of State  and current Franklin Leadership Council members Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice are involved in the movement.
  • Consider why national service is a good economic investment for our country.
  • Check out General McChrystal discussing the restoration of national service in America with CNN’s Erin Burnett. 

For a full list of media on the Franklin Project and national service, please visit our Recent Media page.

We’ve had two major convenings since our founding: the 2013 21st Century National Service Summit in Aspen, CO, and the 2014 Summit at Gettysburg. Check them out!

If you want to share information about the Franklin Project and service years with your friends and colleagues, please send them this flyer.